Developer: Last Life Games
Publisher: Last Life Games
I’m a sucker for Norse mythology. There’s something that fascinates me about the history and subjectmatter surrounding it, so whenever I get the chance to play something that carries the theme like Banner Saga, I do my best to check it out. Occasionally I browse through Steam and look for some great indie titles that would be great to cover, and Trial by Viking landed right on the radar.
Trial by Viking is developed by Last Life Games, which happens to be a one-man band by the name of Dustin Hendricks. Dustin’s game has been nominated for quite a few awards and won a few, one of them being “Best Game” in the 2015 Taco Bell Indie Game Garage Contest. With the help of a Kickstarter, over seven thousand dollars was raised by supporters which is a big part of the reason it was able to be released on Steam.
Unfortunately some of these small indie games don’t make it all the way to the ESRB, so there is no official rating. The great part about that is that this game is not heavy in negative content such as violence, sexual themes, or crude humor. In the category of religious themes, remember that this game is based on Norse mythology which is centered around many Gods. This is more of an ancient belief, I’m not sure if any of it is practiced in today’s society. You will find no blood or gore here—this game falls in the category of cartoon violence. There are tons of traps that can defeat the player, but nothing is shown, and against enemies the player will be using axes, spears, swords, and bombs but without any extreme imagery. If magic is something that concerns you, know that the player character will gain powers when exchanging currency for powers and abilities that are bestowed upon the player by Odin.
The term “metroidvania” has been used to describe Trial by Vikng, so what I expected was a map in which I was going to be able to explore with areas that I could not get into unless I had a certain item or ability. What I found was a large number of levels—just over a hundred. Some of these were very bite sized, but also challenging with similar backgrounds and many platform to traverse. The traps and obstacles make them feel like a series of less sadistic player-created Mario Maker levels.
When it comes to enemies, I found them to be pretty weak. Experimenting with the difficulty levels showed me that a change in damage stats and enemy health were affected the most, which meant the traps and obstacles were still more of a challenge. The bosses themselves are things like huge ax-wielding skeletons, dragons, and more, but they are also pretty easy to figure out. Players will get a nice reward when defeating the bosses though, which come in the form of boosts. You get one point after each boss, and there are two within each section, there are quit a few options, I put much of these points into armor so that I can be a human tank and take a blow like a true viking would.
The ultimate objective throughout the game is to collect the shards of a powerful gem known as the Sunstone which helps bring balance to the cosmos, Loki is the culprit in this universe as he is in the MCU. As a warrior summoned by Odin it is up to you to bring back that balance to the universe, It is possible for you to complete each level without collecting all of the shards, in fact the information on how many are left will not be revealed until you finish a level. This encourages players to return to some of those harder stages and go back for the shards they missed, and for a very good reason. The shards act as a form of currency, collect enough for a specific weapon or ability and it will be bestowed upon you by Odin. You can also upgrade your ax, each offers a damage boost and even other perks on top of that.
The one category that I though could use some retooling inside the levels is the equipment menu, This was mapped to a button like it would be in an RPG, The menu itself lets you equip which ever ax and sub-weapon you would like to use. The first problem here is that any ax you unlock is still better than the previous one that you were using, so there isn’t a reason for you to even want to go back and use the old one. The second is that I should be able to switch these sub-weapons on the fly during some sticky situations rather than having to pause the action every time the situation calls for a particular item.
The graphics and sounds are very well done. They’re not top of the line, but add to the charm of the game. The world itself carries a sort of dark tone that is fitting for the theme of Trial by Viking, along with some epic tunes that round it out. I’ve probably said it before in other reviews, but weather effects are something I enjoy experiencing in video games, and Trial by Viking has some of them too. The character models themselves are kind of average, but that does not hinder the game whatsoever. The game runs very smooth, and games like this need to do so in order for the traversal of many platforms.
Despite these minor annoyances I still believe the developer has created a solid game, and based on what I’ve experienced, it has me wondering what his Mario Maker levels would be like. Unfortunately, Trial by Viking also runs the risk of being buried under the more prominent games that are doing well out there on Steam right now. I recommend that if you have any sort of interest in this game to buy it even if you think you might not get to it right away. Again, Last Life Games is a one man development team, and devs Hendricks need our support if we want them to continue making awesome games. This isn’t one of the greatest games ever made, but it sure is a good one.
The Bottom Line
Trial by Viking is a goodindie title developed by a one man team. It is a great challenge with a level design that resembles Mario Maker. This game is definitely worth your time and money, so go buy it and show some support for this talented developer.